Sunday, October 7, 2012

Review: "Bram Stoker’s Dracula" Still a Stand-Out Dracula Movie

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 16 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
Running time: 128 minutes (2 hours, 8 minutes)
MPAA – R for sexuality and horror violence
DIRECTOR: Francis Ford Coppola
WRITER: James V. Hart (based upon the novel by Bram Stoker)
PRODUCERS: Fred Fuchs, Charles Mulvehill, and Francis Ford Coppola
EDITORS: Anne Goursaud, Glen Scantlebury, and Nicholas C. Smith
COMPOSER: Wojciech Kilar
Academy Award winner

HORROR/FANTASY/ROMANCE with elements of drama

Starring: Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins, Keanu Reeves, Richard E. Grant, Cary Elwes, Bill Campbell, Sadie Frost, Tom Waits, and Monica Bellucci

The subject of this movie review is Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a 1992 vampire movie and Gothic horror film from director Francis Ford Coppola. The film’s screenplay essentially takes the familiar Dracula story and emphasizes romantic and sensual elements. The film’s lavish production values helped it earn many honors, box office success, and some favorable attention from film critics.

Francis Ford Coppola’s lavish and colorful gothic extravaganza, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, is a three-time Academy Award winner. Dazzling, lush, and sensuous, the film affirms Coppola’s place as imaginative and brilliant filmmaker. The film also testifies to the talents of all the cohorts. Eschewing the (then) burgeoning use of computers to add special effects to films, the SFX, cinematographer, makeup, sets artists, and designers used old-fashioned craftsmanship and artistry to create an amazing movie that harks to the past while looking out of this world impossible.

The film’s story is similar to previous adaptations of Bram Stoker’s novel (although most films are actually based on an early 20th century stage version of Stoker’s novel than the novel itself), but the attraction here is the visual interpretation. Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves), a young lawyer, travels to into the gloomy misty land of Eastern Europe, Transylvania, to meet a mysterious client, Count Dracula (Gary Oldman), who is buying several tracts of property in London. Dracula, a vampire, later imprisons Harker when he discovers that Mina Murray (Winona Ryder), Harker’s fiancée, exactly resembles is late human wife, Elisabeta (Ms. Ryder), who killed herself centuries ago. Dracula travels in secret to London where he seduces and drains the life out of Mina’s friend, Lucy Westenra (Sadie Frost). However, the cautious Dr. Jack Seward (Richard E. Grant) summons his old mentor, Professor Abraham Van Helsing (Anthony Hopkins) who immediately recognizes Lucy’s ailment and subsequent death as the work of a vampire. Van Helsing gathers Lucy’s friends to destroy Dracula, but the undead count has in eyes on Mina, and she, surprisingly, as her eyes on him.

The film is very entertaining, a stunning visual treat, and a unique horror film that hypnotizes you into watching it over and over again. Gary Oldman is one of the best screen Dracula’s ever; he is magnificent and alluring, but also fearsome and awe-inspiring. Winona Ryder is simultaneously demure and spirited as the brave Mina who is also secretly a naughty girl. The rest of the cast is mostly hit or miss. Anthony Hopkins gives a mostly annoying performance as Van Helsing, in which he only occasionally makes the character the brave and resolute leader he was in the original novel. Keanu Reeves is wooden, stiff, and nearly undead himself as Jonathan Harker. How could Mina not choose an undead monster with romantic inclinations over a pebble like Reeves’ Harker. The rest of the cast is functional and has its moments. The attraction here is the amazing work of Coppola and his filmmaking crew, as well as the screen duo of Oldman and Ms. Ryder; they’re the reasons you see this film.

7 of 10

1993 Academy Awards: 3 wins: “Best Costume Design” (Eiko Ishioka), “Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing” (Tom C. McCarthy and David E. Stone), and “Best Makeup” (Greg Cannom, Michèle Burke, and Matthew W. Mungle); 1 nomination: “Best Art Direction-Set Decoration” (Thomas E. Sanders and Garrett Lewis)

1994 BAFTA Awards: 4 nominations: “Best Costume Design” (Eiko Ishioka), “Best Make Up Artist” (Greg Cannom, Michèle Burke, and Matthew W. Mungle), “Best Production Design” (Thomas E. Sanders), and “Best Special Effects” (Roman Coppola, Gary Gutierrez, Michael Lantieri, and Gene Warren Jr.)

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